Goods worth millions of Naira have been destroyed by fire which wreaked havoc on over 100 shops in the popular Marian market in Calabar, Cross River State on Friday.
The fire, which started from one of the shops in the fruit section, spread to other shops and destroyed goods worth millions of Naira, including vital properties.
An eyewitness, Ojah Ojah, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria at the scene of the disaster, said the fire outbreak started around 8pm on Friday.
Ojah said: “The fire incident started from one of the shops when electricity was supplied to the area.
“We saw a spark from one of the shops and before we knew it, the fire had extended to other shops.
“We called on the Fire Service, but they could not respond on time.
“It took the Intervention of Nigerian Navy fire truck to help in containing the fire.”
One of the victims, Eme Bassey, 54, said her water melon worth N300,000, including her shop, were all destroyed in the fire outbreak.
Bassey, who told NAN that she usually gets her supplies from Makurdi, Benue State, said she had been rendered “hopeless”.
She saidL “Three days ago, I received supply of water melon worth over N500,000 from my major distributor in Makurdi.
“I usually sell and make payment to him, but this fire outbreak has rendered me hopeless for now.
“I don’t even know where to start because my shop was also burnt to ashes.
“This is too painful for me to bear under this harsh COVID-19 period.”
Another victim, Theresa Okon, 48, lamented that the fire outbreak had automatically kept her out of business, adding that the source of her income and business capital had been cut off.
Okon also appealed to the government and relevant agencies, including corporate organisations, to come to their aid.
Princewill Ayim, the Director General of Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, who went for an on-the-spot assessment, sympathised with the affected traders.
Ayim said preliminary investigations also indicated that the fire outbreak was caused by an electrical fault, which spread to other shops.
He said: “We are here to assess the extent of damage and to also document the affected traders with a view to ameliorate their situation, especially at this period of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The state government is very responsive to cases of emergencies like this.
“I can assure you that something will be done to assist the victims.”
Ayim, called on the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to also assist the victims to bounce back to business.
NAN reports that no life was lost in the inferno.